Federal Prison Industries’ Commitment to Greening: Inside and Out


Federal Prison Industries’ Commitment to Greening: Inside and Out
By Robert Grieser, Chief, Strategic Business Development & Marketing, UNICOR – Federal Prison Industries, Inc.

A Federal inmate sprays powder-coat paint onto shelving components at the UNICOR metal products factory in the Federal Correctional Institution at El Reno, OK

Correctional industries programs can play a significant role in supporting green corrections. They support their government agency customer base through a supply chain focus on green purchases of goods and services. Federal Executive Orders 13423 and 13514, signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama respectively, set goals for the Federal Government in energy efficiency, renewable energy, toxic reductions, and recycling. To help Federal government agencies meet these goals, Federal Prison Industries (FPI) has adopted green manufacturing processes in its various products sold to the federal government.

FPI is a wholly-owned government corporation established by Congress in 1934. FPI’s mission is to employ and provide job skills training to the greatest practicable number of inmates confined within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Several green efforts for FPI business groups are highlighted in this article.

Federal inmates process tons of e-waste at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, OH

Many FPI Office Furniture Group (OFG) products are not only fully compliant with the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s GREENGUARD Certification, but they also comply with BIFMA’s low emitting furniture standards. Fabrics used in OFG furniture comprise up to 100 percent recycled fiber content, and all foam cushioning used in OFG seating is 100 percent recyclable. All finishes and glues are water based and environmentally safe.

FPI provides a complete range of fleet modernization programs to the Federal Government. Through a reclamation and rebuilding program FPI saves customers up to 60 percent of their procurement dollars, as compared to the cost of buying new equipment.

FPI’s Industrial Products Group (IPG) employs a number of environmentally sound processes, such as using only powder coated paint finishes. Along with being non-toxic, excess powder coated paint can be retrieved and used again. IPG also practices environmentally sound processes to produce decals and screen printed emblems, and uses inks that are chemically inert.

UNICOR workers process data for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, OH

In the FPI Services Business Group (SBG), inmates working in FPI’s data program convert tens of thousands of pages of documents to electronic format each day, providing government agencies a cost effective and environmentally sound way to capture and retrieve valuable data. SBG print shops use only environmentally safe inks. During Fiscal Year 2009, SBG printing and bindery operations returned over 775 tons of waste to the pa-per market for the production of new products.

FPI’s Recycling Business Group processes mil-lions of pounds of obsolete and excess computers and electronic equipment annually from both the public and private sectors. This action saves precious landfill space, energy, and resources, by reusing residual materials in lieu of mining virgin commodities. If an item cannot be re-used, it is broken down into recyclable component parts.

Inmates at the Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville, CA bring Navy forklifts back to like- new condition

Recently, FPI began manufacturing operations to provide solar panels to the Federal government. Providing this technology to federal agencies will enable them to become more environmentally sound and energy efficient to meet their goals. FPI’s Textiles Inmates at the Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville, CA bring Navy forklifts back to like- new conditionBusiness Group wastes virtually nothing. Even scrap material from factory cutting tables is collected for sale to recyclers, and used to produce items such as carpet lining for auto-mobile trunks. Our factories also recycle packing boxes and pallets received from fabric-cutting vendors which we use for final shipments to our government customers. Approximately 170,000 boxes are recycled each year. Also, the Government looks to us for “life extension” of existing products. Our repair capabilities enable us to re-store innumerable items to prime condition such as parachutes, ponchos/liners, field packs, and sleeping bags. During these times of shrinking appropriations, we are proud to do our part to help agencies maximize their funding. FPI has embraced the importance of “Greening” as an organizational goal as well. FPI’s FY 2011 Strategic Plan includes the following objective: Promote environmental and occupational health stewardship by operating the corporation in a compliant, environmentally friendly and sustain-able manner.

A Federal inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville, NY assembles solar panels that will be delivered to energy conscious federal agencies

A Federal inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville, NY assembles solar panels that will be delivered to energy conscious federal agenciesOne strategy to meet this objective is for FPI to emphasize current efforts and increase focus on “green” products, product sustainability, and re-cycled content. However, FPI will not just pro-mote greening through its products. Inmates who learn how to care for the environment by working in FPI will take that knowledge with them when they return to society.
Toward this end, FPI has looked internally to its factory operations as well, identifying a number of opportunities for greening its manufacturing processes. Among these include the use of energy efficient lighting, powder-coated paints, water-based finishes, environmentally friendly packaging, and reduction and/or elimination of hazardous chemicals.

Additionally, FPI has promoted the use of greener raw materials from its North American based vendor partners throughout its supply chain. Finally, its transportation partners use bio-diesel fuels in transporting FPI products to our customers. These internal efforts are more transparent to the customer and are a reflection on FPI’s commitment to greening as an organization at every level.